Friday, October 31, 2014

Interpreting from Behind

Since coming back to the US, one of the things I’m becoming even more fascinated with is interpreting.  Being exposed to medical terms I’ve never learned has been humbling.  Starting to recognize accents from different countries has been fun. 
As most things do, it has also got me thinking about my faith.  I started writing a single blog post but there’s just too much.  So, I’m going to do a kind of ‘series’ on it.  Here’s the first one:

Carlos and I went to an interpreter training for helping with parent-teacher conferences.  After talking about the do’s and don’ts and general good practices of interpreting, the instructor told us we were going to give it a try. 
She had a row of three chairs up front, and asked for three volunteers.  Mom, Interpreter, Teacher.  “Where should each one sit?”  The class agreed that Mom was on the left, Interpreter in the middle, Teacher on the right. 

“Okay, let’s get started.”  Teacher said “Hello” to Interpreter, who turned and said “Hola” to Mom.  Mom said “Hola”, and Interpreter turned and said “Hello” to Teacher. 
On it went, with the two talking to the Interpreter, and hardly looking at each other.  “What’s wrong with this?” the Instructor asked us.  The class could easily see the problem - Mom and Teacher are not talking to each other. 

“Exactly.  Okay, let’s try a triangle.”  The chairs were rearranged, and they started again.  But, again, the two spoke to the Interpreter, not engaging each other. 
“So, what do we do?”  The Instructor had them stand up and rearranged the chairs one last time.  The Mom and Teacher chairs were face-to-face, with the Interpreter’s beside and slightly behind the Parent. 

At first it was a little awkward, and Mom wanted to turn and look at Interpreter.  But, as Interpreter continued to encourage Mom to look at Teacher, it became more natural.  Looking at each other, they began to actually talk to each other.  The Interpreter became a conduit, not the focus of the conversation. 
A successful interpreter is one who becomes practically invisible with the two parties feeling like they have communicated on their own.  In an ideal world, where interpreters are perfectly competent, one could walk away and another sit down without the connection between Mom and Teacher ever being broken.  (Hey, we can dream of getting that good!)

It made me think about my role in sharing Jesus Christ.  Obviously, it is not a perfect analogy!  But, it does help me put things in perspective.  Where do I position myself?  Do I keep myself in the middle, encouraging the person to use me as the go-between?  Or, am I willing to pull back, getting myself out of the way?
It takes some effort and intentionality to learn to interpret from behind.  To be invisible.  But, if I don’t, have I truly fulfilled my role?  Have I been successful?  If, at the end, they are still only looking at me, have they actually communicated?

Success in the Christian life is marked by becoming less so that Jesus becomes more.  As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  Doing so takes effort and intentionality but that’s what it’s all about.  To see that life-giving, life-changing connection happen when someone encounters Jesus Christ. 
To be a part of this is a tremendous privilege and responsibility.  It is to be my life's work.  And, to do it from behind, so it is only and ever about Him.

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